How to Boil Eggs So They Peel Easily – Your Guide to Perfect Eggs!

I love eating hard-boiled eggs. BUT, for something so simple, why are making and peeling hard-boiled eggs so darn complicated? I’ve made plenty of hard-boiled eggs in my time. But still, peeling them well doesn’t work every time, so I decided to find out how to boil eggs so they peel easily.

To boil and peel hard-boiled eggs successfully every time start with older eggs, about 7-10 days old, bring cold water and eggs to a low boil for 10 minutes with a teaspoon of baking soda, give a gentle crack on the shell and then briefly plunge into ice water to shock the eggs. Now you’re ready to peel!

But there’s a lot more to get into beyond that, so let’s look at ALL the questions that surround hard-boiled eggs.

If you’re looking to buy any small kitchen appliance, don’t forget to check out my Recommended Products Page (click to see my page) which breaks down all my best picks by category.

I always hand select items that I either own, have used, or have researched well to ensure they are great items. I also give not only top of the line as well as inexpensive alternatives so my choices work for any budget.

Why are my hard-boiled eggs hard to peel?

Ironically, part of it has to do with freshness. The fresher the egg, often times the harder it is to peel.

Thus, while we are conditioned as grocery shoppers to seek out the freshest foods, if you’re doing dozens of deviled eggs for a party, do yourself a favor and don’t hit up the farmer’s market for those eggs.

Part of the reason for this is that as eggs age, essentially their shells get thinner as they are ultimately designed to hatch chickens. More technically, the egg white (technical name albumen), sticks to the shell of a fresh egg more than it does to older eggs.

So look for eggs that are about 7-10 days old.

Understanding how egg cartons are dated

These days, most egg cartons at grocery stores have a date stamped on them like all perishable grocery items. However, it wasn’t that long ago that egg cartons used a dating system called Julian dating.

Julian dates, if your eggs use that, are typically 4 digit codes.

Julian dating was a system developed by the military and essentially, when looking at the numbers from left to right, the 1st number is the last number of the year and the next 4 numbers are the day of the year.

Thus, if your eggs were packaged on March 1, 2019, the Julian date code would be 9060 since March 1st is the 60th day of the year.

Does baking soda help eggs peel easier?

The short answer is yes; adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the water when you boil your eggs helps the albumen stick less to the shell. The baking soda passes through the shell as the eggs cook.

So even if your eggs are relatively fresh, adding baking soda to your egg cooking water will help the egg peel more like an older egg.

Do I need to poke holes in the eggshells to help the baking soda soak in?

Not really, is my short answer here.

For one, if I had to use a pin to poke holes in the shell of a raw egg every time I wanted to make hard-boiled eggs, I’d probably end up vegan. It would drive me crazy!

So no; don’t waste time trying to poke holes in the eggshell unless you’re just a glutton for punishment.

Does vinegar help eggs peel easier?

It wouldn’t be the internet without 10 different people telling you 10 different ways of doing something.

Vinegar, baking soda, salted water, low-boil water, etc.

There are a million stories in the naked city, err . . . internet. That being said, some people do like to add vinegar to their water when making hard-boiled eggs.

To try the vinegar method, add 1/2 cup (white or apple cider) vinegar to your cold water and a teaspoon of salt. Over medium-high heat, bring the water to a low boil and cook for 10 minutes for a hard-boiled egg (or about 6 minutes for a soft-boiled egg).

Like the baking soda method, the idea is that a little of the salt and vinegar penetrate the shell and loosen the egg whites from the shell.

The reason I prefer the baking soda method is that if any of the added substance DOES pass through the shell and into the egg, I’d just as soon not have that added flavor be vinegar (especially salty vinegar).

Should I salt the water when hard-boiling eggs?

The short answer here is no.

Those of us who know our way around a kitchen are used to salting cooking water for just about anything. The reason is it can help gently season whatever we are cooking and it can raise the temperature of the water slightly (which makes things cook faster).

For hard-boiled eggs, however, the salt doesn’t really penetrate the shell well (or at least not enough to be noticeable in taste). AND, more importantly, we actually want the eggs to cook at a low, gentle, boil, so we don’t really want the water temperature to be higher.

While I suppose a little salt could get the water hotter faster, it’s probably not enough of a time-saver to be worth it.

Should I use cold water to hard-boil eggs?

The short answer is absolutely, yes!

And never, I mean never, bring the water to a boil and then toss in the raw eggs. Adding raw eggs to already boiling water is a good way to cause the shell to crack before the egg is cooked.

A broken shell on a raw egg can lead to the egg not cooking consistently and can also easily lead to over-cooking. An over-cooked egg will leave you with that brownish-greenish ring around the yolk we’ve all seen before.

So always start with a pot of cold water.

Then, gently add the raw eggs and ensure the water covers the eggs by about an inch. Then raise the heat to medium-high so it hits a low boil.

Should I cool the hard-boiled eggs before peeling them?

Yes is the short answer.

That being said, you also don’t want them ice cold; just not hot. So most experts recommend an ice water bath right after boiling.

Use a slotted spoon to carefully take the eggs out of the hot water and into the ice bath. If you want to handle them hot and give them a gentle crack on a clean, flat surface before putting them in the ice water, that can help too.

Do I cook the eggs for 10 minutes from the start or from the water starts to boil?

Here’s another very confusing question!

Many sites on the internet will say place the eggs in cold water and cook for 10 minutes or boil for 10 minutes. That, of course, implies the timer starts when the water starts to boil, but it really isn’t clear.

Thus, let me be clear!

Start your timer when the water starts to boil! Would you rather turn it on and walk away? Then about 16 minutes from the time you turn the burner on (using cold water in the pot) is about right.

If you start that 10 minute time when the cold water hits the burner, your eggs will be soft-boiled eggs at best.

How do you boil eggs properly?

For perfect hard-boiled eggs every time, follow the following steps:

  • Choose less-fresh eggs (7-10 days old)
  • Place in a pot of cold water with about a teaspoon of baking soda added and bring to a low boil
  • Do NOT bring the water to a full rolling boil. If you have a thermometer, 175° is about right
  • Cook the eggs for about 10 minutes (or 13 minutes for extra-large eggs)
  • Give a gentle tap on a clean flat surface to crack the egg
  • Allow the eggs to cool before peeling (by placing in the fridge or in an ice water bath). But you don’t want them ice cold; just not hot.
  • Gently begin peeling the shell

How do you know when boiled eggs are done?

In short there isn’t an easy way to tell other than using a timer when you cook the eggs.

I get into how long to cook a hard-boiled egg in the section below, but about 10 minutes (once it hits a low boil) is about right.

That being said, there are a few things to note that help you identify when a hard-boiled egg is done. Here are some things to note:

  • Hard-boiled eggs will sink in plain water
  • Hard-boiled eggs will float if the water is salted
  • A fully cooked egg will spin evenly on a counter (a raw or undercooked egg will be wobbly)
  • Hold the egg up to bright light (raw eggs are easy to see through and let you see the yolk. A cooked egg can’t be seen through)

How long does it take to boil an egg?

This all depends on how well you want your yolk cooked, if you salt your water, etc.

As I mentioned above, the timer starts when the water starts to boil.

You also want a low boil as well. Of course, there are also some minor differences in boiling points and temperatures in regards to altitude, but in general, go by the following:

  • 6 minutes at a low boil for soft-boiled eggs
  • 10 minutes at a low boil for hard-boiled eggs
  • 13 minutes at a low boil for a really large hard-boiled egg

Just follow those rules of thumb for perfectly cooked hard (and soft) boiled eggs!

Can I hard boil an egg in the microwave?

Maybe, is the short answer.

The problem is that too much power can cause the egg to explode inside the microwave. It’s the same reason that when boiling eggs in water we want the water to be at a low boil and not a full, rollicking boil.

If you are bound and determined to microwave your hard-boiled eggs, follow these steps:

  • Place your raw eggs in a microwave-safe glass bowl
  • Cover the eggs with cold water (at least 1/2″ of water over the top of the eggs)
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt for each egg in the bowl (it helps reduce the chance of explosion)
  • Microwave on high for about 6 minutes (it may take up to 8 minutes depending on how powerful your microwave is, so start with 1 and test)

How do you peel an egg without the shell sticking?

Have you ever started to peel a hard-boiled egg only to have big chunks come off with the shell? After a while the egg looks like an old piece of sheet metal that’s been hit with a BB gun about 100 times.

So frustrating!

It’s really crazy how something seemingly so simple just can’t work consistently. Or can it?

So first, make sure you don’t skip the step when you chill the eggs in ice water immediately after cooking. Also, remember not to cook the eggs at a full rolling boil. If the egg whites get too hot, they stick more to the inside of the shell.

I also personally like holding the eggs under cool running water as I peel them and typically find this helps the shell come off smoothly.

Why do some eggs peel easier than others?

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this post already, but the most likely culprit on a hard-to-peel egg is that it is a super fresh egg.

Supermarket eggs are often from enormous factory farms will millions of chickens producing hundreds of thousands of eggs daily. Thus, a carton of eggs, no matter what it is dated, could easily actually be a variety of ages.

If you do have a farm or farmer’s market near you, it’s always great to get those fresh eggs. Then if you know you’re going to make hard boiled eggs, just throw them in a container and date it.

After 7-10 days, they’ll be ready to cook. And an older egg is ALWAYS easier to peel than a fresh one.

As I mentioned above, a little baking soda in the water will also help the egg peel smoothly.

How do I peel a cold hard boiled egg?

So if you’ve been following along through this article, then you know the following:

  • Choose less-fresh eggs (7-10 days old)
  • Place in a pot of cold water with about a teaspoon of baking soda added and bring to a low boil
  • Do NOT bring the water to a full rolling boil. If you have a thermometer, 175° is about right
  • Cook the eggs for about 10 minutes (or 13 minutes for extra-large eggs)
  • Give a gentle tap on a clean flat surface to crack the egg
  • Allow the eggs to cool before peeling (by placing in the fridge or in an ice water bath). But you don’t want them ice cold; just not hot.
  • Gently begin peeling the shell

So once the eggs are done cooking for 10 minutes and you’ve given them a gentle tap on a clean flat surface then it’s time for the ice water bath.

Plunge the eggs in the shell into a bowl filled with cool water and a fair amount of ice (no such thing as too much).  You want to get the eggs cooled back down, but not frozen or ice cold; just basically to room temperature.

Once the egg is nice and cool (maybe after a minute or so), remove from the water and then while rinsing under cool water from the sink, gently start to peel away the shell.

In most cases, if you’ve followed all the instructions the shell and membrane should peel away in large chunks pretty smoothly.

But admittedly, no matter how long you’ve been doing this, it’s not a fool-proof process. No two eggs are exactly the same size, freshness or quality.

So just know you’re not likely to hit it 100% every time you cook an egg.

Can you really shake a cooked egg in a glass of water to shed the shell?

A few years back, some of us might remember a viral video of a guy who put a cooked egg in a glass with a small amount of water and just covered the glass and shook vigorously.

Don’t recall that video? Check it out!

So the big question is, does it work?

The short answer is yes it does, but it is a little noisy so it’s not the right approach for a couple of hard-boiled eggs in the morning while everyone else is asleep.

Can you overcook hard boiled eggs?

The short answer here is definitely yes.

An over-cooked hard-boiled egg will be chewier, denser, and dryer when you eat it. It will also have a dark grayish or greenish ring around the egg yolk.

What causes the gray or green ring? It’s actually a chemical reaction with egg whites and sulfur in the egg and the iron content in the yolk.

While, of course, still edible, an over-cooked hard-boiled egg isn’t nearly as delicious as a properly cooked hard-boiled egg.

So proper cooking time is the key here.

About 10 minutes (once the water starts to boil) for an average sized egg, starting with a pot of cold water, or 13 minutes for really big eggs, is about right.

And remember not to bring the water to a full rolling boil. Just a gentle boil with the water around 175° is perfect.

Can you Reboil soft boiled eggs?

The short answer is yes but you may not want to.

If you cooked an egg, peeled it and realized the yolk was not done enough for your liking, you could definitely then cook it longer.

From a food safety standpoint that egg is just fine, and dropping it back in the hot water to cook a little longer won’t compromise food safety at all.

I WOULD do it right away, as I would not recommend sticking a soft-boiled egg in the fridge and then cooking more later. That won’t go bad (within a week), but it probably would turn the egg quite rubbery and it wouldn’t taste good.

If you absolutely under-cooked it and can’t use it, but have already peeled it, if the water is still super hot, just drop it back in the hot water for 3-5 minutes. If the water has cooled some, then go ahead and turn on low and re-heat the water and the egg together.

Make no mistake though, this won’t be as tasty as a properly cooked egg, but it can be done.

Is it safe to eat undercooked hard boiled eggs?

The short answer is probably.

I can’t answer with a definitive yes as I don’t know how old your eggs are, how much it was cooked or under-cooked, and how it was handled after cooking.

But many people consume raw eggs every day in caesar salad dressing or in protein shakes. I’m not necessarily advocating for that as with any raw or undercooked egg, there is a risk of salmonella poisoning.

But if you cooked the egg in gently boiling water for at least 6 minutes, you have soft-boiled the egg, and it should be just fine.

But again, I don’t know how fresh your eggs are, how long you cooked them and how sanitary the conditions, so use caution as I certainly can’t guarantee anything.

Can you eat an egg that broke while boiling?

Yes, of course.

If the egg completely leaked out of the shell and into the water, it’s basically just a messy poached egg.

It may not be super appetizing, but it’s certainly going to be just as tasty as any other hard-boiled eggs.

If the egg just leaked out of the shell a little bit, it will also be just fine, just less pretty than a perfectly cooked and peeled hard-boiled egg.

As with any hard-boiled egg, you’ll want to refrigerate if not eating right away, and even then, it should still be eaten within a week.

Why did my egg crack while boiling?

Inside an eggshell are the egg white, the egg yolk, and air.

The balance between those 3 can vary depending on the type of egg. As you cook the egg, the insides naturally heat up. If there’s a lot of air inside the shell, the pressure starts to build up just like when a lid bubbles on a pot of boiling water.

If the air pressure gets to be too big, it naturally tries to escape wherever the shell is weakest. Thus, it’s not totally uncommon for the eggshell to crack sometimes when boiling.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, one of the best ways to combat this is to NOT bring the water to a full boil or add salt to the water. Just a gentle boil with maybe a teaspoon of baking soda works best.

Do hard-boiled eggs need to be refrigerated?

The short answer is yes unless you’re going to eat them within 2 hours.

Salmonella is the most frequently found type of food poisoning in the US. Unfortunately, the culprit is usually eggs leading to salmonella poisoning.

According to the CDC, almost 150,000 cases of salmonella happen each year in the US. The key to avoiding salmonella is proper refrigeration and a general understanding of the food temperature danger zone.

Food-borne bacteria grow when food temperatures get above 40° and under 140°. Since most of us keep our homes between 70° and 80°, it stands to reason that cooked food sitting out at room temperature won’t take long to hit the danger zone.

That being said, even health departments that rate restaurants and grocery stores generally allow food to be in the danger zone for up to 2 hours.

So if you plan to eat those hard-boiled eggs within 2 hours of cooking, go ahead and leave them sitting out if need be.

Beyond 2 hours, it would certainly be safer to put them in the refrigerator under it’s time to eat.

Cooking on a patio on a hot summer day? Make that 1 hour before the eggs start to get unsafe.

Did I answer all your questions about how to boil eggs so they peel easily?

In this post, we took a look at the simple, yet complicated world of hard-boiled eggs.

We looked at how long to cook them if vinegar helps them peel more easily, how to peel them perfectly every time, if it’s better to peel cold or hot, and a host of other related questions that always come up.

Now, go make some perfect hardboiled eggs and comment about how they turned out.

If you’re looking to buy any small kitchen appliance, don’t forget to check out my Recommended Products Page (click to see my page) which breaks down all my best picks by category.

I always hand select items that I either own, have used, or have researched well to ensure they are great items. I also give not only top of the line as well as inexpensive alternatives so my choices work for any budget.

Jeff Campbell

Jeff was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades and is now a recovering foodie. When he's not spending time in the kitchen, he can usually be found with his wife & 3 daughters, he can usually be found practicing martial arts, making music, or blogging on his other sites. Click to learn more about me

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